Slam Poetry Captivates Publishers and Flip

Spoken word competitions have been organized by more than 150 groups in the country

São Paulo

Born in a bar in Chicago in 1986, a poetry slam is three things in one: a competition of spoken poetry, an open microphone for people to share their poetry and an artistic and social meeting place.

Rules may vary slightly from event to event, but they follow a pattern. Each poet has only three minutes to present his work on any subject. No accompanying music, scenery or even costumes are allowed.

It is only the microphone, and the writer, who is judged by five people picked randomly in the audience, who give scores from zero to ten for the presentations. As in the calculation of samba schools in Carnival, the highest and lowest scores are discarded. The remaining three form the final grade. Whoever gets the highest score is the champion.

Poet Alquimista (Foto: Jardiel Carvalho/Folhapress, ILUSTRADA) ***EXCLUSIVO FOLHA - Folhapress

"The movement that matters most in the literature today is that of the slams and soirees. It is living literature made with the body. When they talk about domestic violence, women or homophobia, these themes traverse the bodies of these poets. Moreover, how they express this outrage is through the word", writer Marcelino Freire said.

The body is such a fundamental part of the presentations that the jurors not only judge the text and the literary issues but also how the poets perform physically.

According to the writer, actress and one of the leading names of the movement Roberta Estrela D'Alva, there are already 150 more groups in the country - all very connected to the main arts scenes, but also to suburban and social issues, such as violence, prejudice, sexuality, and low political representation.

In a sense, in slam, it is almost impossible to decouple the manifesto from the literary manifestation. These are two aspects that feed off each other. It is as if life sparked the outrage and it urged the poet to write, and then the poet gives more to this outrage.

Growth has made these slams catch the attention of the mainstream. With bookstores in crisis and bad publishers also suffering, the literary market has already been seduced by these young people who carry their fanzines under their arms, sell their verses in word of mouth, and spout the rhymes of color and fire to the audience.

It is no surprise that the International Literary Festival of Paraty, Flip, this year will have for the first time an international slam competition on the main stage, organized by Estrela D'Alva.

Front-line publishers have also been looking more carefully at the movement. One of the most recent was Planeta, who published "Querem nos Calazé: Poems to Be Read Aloud," which features 15 women who participate in slams in Brazil and has a preface by Conceição Evaristo and a selection by Mel Duarte, another slam poet.

And the movement is international. At the World Slam Championships, which occurred in France this year, Pieta Poeta represented  Brazil.

Translated by Kiratiana Freelon

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